1902 Encyclopedia > Bangkok


BANGKOK, a city of Siam, which was raised to the rank of capital in 1769. It is situated on both sides of the River Menam, about 20 miles from the sea, in lat. 13' 38' N. and long. 100° 34' E. The river is navigable to the city for vessels of 350 tons, but there is a bar at its mouth, which at the lowest ebbs has only six feet of water, and at no time has more than fourteen. The genera! appearance of Bangkok is very striking, alike from its extent, the strange architecture of its more important buildings, and the luxuriant greenness of the trees with which it is profusely interspersed. The streets are in many cases traversed by canals, and the houses raised on piles, while a large part of the population dwell in floating houses moored along the river sides in tiers three or four deep. The nucleus of the city on the eastern bank is surrounded by a wall 30 feet high, and 10 or 12 feet thick, relieved by numerous towers and bastions ; but the rest of the city stretches irregularly for full seven miles along each side of the river, and in some places attains nearly as great a breadth,—the Menam itself being about a quarter of a mile across. All the ordinary buildings are composed of wood or bamboo work; but the temples and palaces are of more solid construction, and are gorgeously ornamented. The spires, and in some cases the whole edifices, are covered with gilding, or many-coloured mosaic of the most grotesque description, while the roofs are adorned with fantastic ridges and gables. In all there are upwards of a hundred temples in the city and suburbs. The palace of the " First King " is enclosed by high white walls, which are about s mile in circumference. It consists of a large number of different buildings for various purposes—temples, public offices, seraglios, the stalls for the sacred elephant, and accommodation for thousands of soldiers, cavalry, artillery, and war elephants, an arsenal, a theatre, <fcc. The hall of audience, in which the throne of the king stands, is situated in the middle of the principal court. The temples are of great richness, floored with mats of silver, and stored with monuments and relics. In one of them is a famous jasper statue of Buddha. The population of the city is of various nationalities,—Burmese, Peguans, Cambodians, Cochin-Chinese, Malays, Indo-Portuguese, and others, besides the two predominant classes, the Chinese and Siamese. There is great commercial activity, the principal articles of trade being sugar, pepper, and rice. The supplies of the last article can be brought from a long way inland by means of the river and various canals, such as the Petrio, which joins the Bang-Pa-Kong at Kanat. Cardamoms, timber, and tin are also largely exported. European manufactures are extensively imported, the natives being very ready to adopt new methods and machinery ; and steam-mills for various purposes are being set up. The river is kept clear by a steam-dredger, and iron bridges of European construction are built across the canals. Gas is used in the palaces of the kings and the houses or many of the nobility. A considerable number of European firms carry on business in the city, and the English Government maintains a consul. Christian missions, both Protestant and Roman Catholic, are maintained, the latter church having established a bishopric. The population is said to amount to 400,000.
The reader will find much carious information on Bangkok in Crawford's Embassy to Siam, 2 vols. 1830 (plan at p. 214 of vol. ii.); Pallegoix's Description du royaume Thai, ou Siam, 18Si; and Bowring's Siam, 1857. See also Jahresberieht des Vereins fur Erdk. zu Dresden, viii. and ix.

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